The short version is: I guess being raised in a once-persecuted millennialist cult occasionally has its uses.
The long version is that perhaps some of my misspent youth seems to have provided me some useful survival information after all.
It's human nature to over-generalize from personal experience, and as much as I cling to my anthropological training and my outsider/outlier status as a means of counteraction, I'm guilty of it too.
To come at it from another angle: funny how having your great-grandparents chased from Illinois to Utah will affect the surviving culture...
The Mormons are famous for having stockpiles of supplies in case of an emergency. Growing up I always heard it as one hyphenated term: years-supply.
The concept is you ideally have on hand a year's worth of what you and your family need to survive, in terms of food, water, and non-perishables. You keep things 'fresh' by rotating through them the same way a store would, in terms of the canned goods at a minimum. Parallel to this is having an emergency kit or jump-bag type set of items for each individual, often stored in the family vehicle if it doesn't have its own separate emergency supplies.
To actually have that much stuff around, and to actually work your way through it for a family of any size (and five-seven children is about average) takes a lot of management, but people do it. More people have the food and water (and toilet paper) than having EVERYTHING. Lots of people have a bunch of canned goods in the basement that may or may not be in the best condition.
So since I grew up with all of this stuff in the background, plus living in a Navy town during the Cold War, it became one of those things I thought was pretty common knowledge. Like drinking lots of water or regular exercise or any of half a zillion other things people know they should do, but don't always for whatever reason.
What the aftermath of the hurricane in NOLA has shown me is no, that isn't the case. A frighteningly large portion of the population, including huge swaths that SHOULD know this stuff because of their jobs, apparently don't. I knew I knew more about survival than lots of people, but I didn't realize how much more I know than most people seem to.
This is changing, some. There is always a resurgence of preparedness training and activities after a disaster, but the colossal lack of response on the part of the government this time around has made a huge impact. A much larger percentage of the population realize they can't put personal training and preparedness aside because they can rely on some sort of organized help, they have to be prepared to survive on their own: the government not only isn't coming to the rescue, it may well be actively obstructing efforts to help. (I'm not going into whether the obstruction was deliberate, endemic, or whatever - the fact that obstruction took place is what needs to be planned for and dealt with.)
Don't think I'm still not cranky - or even downright bitter - about much of the Mormon crap I find lying around in corners of my brain. And to get really nasty about it, when my mom and I were talking on the phone about disaster relief, she mentioned the Church (you can hear the capital 'C' if you know how to listen) and how of course any members left inside New Orleans would be helping mobilize to bring relief and distribute supplies. I sarcastically said that perhaps the National Guard would let them in because they were a faith-based organization. But after we rang off I was still thinking about it in the back of my mind, and wondering when I realized that in the remaining population there were going to be few, few, few Mormons, if any - it's not a religion that has been friendly to Black/African-Americans. I doubt there are very many on the ground, in the city, to help or not.
[If you care why, interestingly enough its a similar plaint to one of mine - being denied individual representation in the power hierarchy of the organization since until 1979 black men weren't allowed to hold the priesthood. Specifically the higher priesthood, but that's getting into technical details. The point is that all of the decision-making councils and discussions of any import are high priesthood meetings, from which they, like women, were banned. That 'black mark of Cain' nonsense, which conveniently for the political pressures of the time, was apparently somehow quietly expiated in the mid-70s. Don't ask me, and I even lived through it.]
The words-eating part: I was complaining to grouchychris the other day about all the useless crap my brain is stuffed full of from my childhood - bizarre cosmology, scripture "facts", etc.
However, tucked in there as well is a lot of emergency training that turns out to be less common than I thought. Formal Red Cross CPR and First Aid as well as scouting-type how not to die in the woods, how to be calm in an emergency, and how to be prepared to drop everything and get out ASAP with your essentials on short notice.